“Are you sure we’ll be safe here?” Zee asked as Adrian made his way towards the door that was connected to a huge mansion. Everything gleamed and sparkled, the gold encrusted designs of the outside sparked in the sunlight that made it look like a halo was on top of it.
Well decorated statues draped with variety of flowers were scattered around the front lawn and the fountain situated in the middle opposite the front gate. We got past the masses of security easily enough they took one look at Adrian and let us through without any hesitation.
We made it. We made it through the tunnels and thankfully I was right it did lead to a relatively busy streets despite us being drench no one took a second look at us, I guess with everything’s that happened has had the same effect on people all around the world, the hopelessness. And in French the destitute numbers tripled that of England, it was an eye opening experience in more ways than one. But it put us at an even greater distance between us and the military and unfortunately Elijah. As much as I didn’t want to abandon him, as much as I wanted to know what became of him and what happened to him. I knew I needed to move onwards. It would be the right thing to do and it would be avenging him, but everything in me ached for him not to be actually dead. Captured. But not dead.
Still was being captured any better? What were the untold horrors they’d do to him?
In spite of that Adrian thought it’d be the safest decision to crash in his friends house, that the hotel would be too much of a public place for us. That was something I agreed with completely.
So here we all were; alive, our clothes soaked in water standing at the doorstep of a stranger’s mansion that we’re going by Adrian’s word that we could trust him.
Adrian slammed three fists down onto the door and before he reached the third, the big door slide open. A tall, eccentric looking man with spiked black thronged hair and a wide smile opened the door to us, the difference was he dressed so casual that it would be surprising that he owned all this estate. These days the rich flaunted everything they had. “Welcome, mes aimes. I’ve been expecting you. Entrer, entrer.” Ushering us into the mansion, he kept the door open examining everyone single one of us as we entered.
Then his eyes fell on me. “So this is our little prodigy, the saver of our world.” He throw his hands in the air, jumping out of the way last minute I narrowly avoided being smacked in the nose. Maybe eccentric was an understatement. But he knew who I was and what I was and I suspect that Adrian told him about me, possibly more.
“You told him?” Isaiah eyed Adrian, looking the most angry I’ve seen him not even including how erratic he was in the bar. “Why did you tell him Adrian? I trusted it to you and you alone-”
“Désolé, Isaiah is it? Adrian here had no choice but to tell me or I wouldn’t have helped him.”
“What happened to your friends will help you no questions asked.” I glared at Adrian, he squirmed on the spot, clearly uncomfortable with being grilled so openly.
“Look mes aimes. I would accept Adrian here no questions asked. Mais the rest of you, I don’t openly welcome completely strangers into my home. You understand why I needed to know, right? There is non need to blame this on mon chérie Adrian-.”
Isaiah interjected, understanding everything he said French and English alike and wasn’t all too pleased. “He can speak for himself.”
“I’m sorry.” Adrian started giving us the explanation that we all deserved. “This was my backup if the hotel plan failed. I knew you wouldn’t let me come if it was a risk to jeopardize this trip or any information about any of you. So I thought it be best to do it in secret. Only for your benefit of course-”
“We all know that’s not true.” Isaiah frowned, discarding everything that just left Adrian’s mouth.
He paused, looked at Isaiah then nodded. ” Yes, I came partly because of you. Alexis knows the rest.” His gaze flickered towards me and I could tell he was pleading for my help.
Slowly, I could feel my face begin to soften as I retraced back to him talking about his sweetheart and soon to be fiancée and the better life he hoped them both could enjoy and instantly my annoyance was overcome with understanding. “I get it, I do. You needed to do what you needed to do. Isaiah, it’s okay. If he says we can trust-” Pausing it occurred the me we didn’t even know his name yet.
“Francis.” He filled in for me, clearly intrigued with whatever relationship was between me and Isaiah and I didn’t like how he was looking at us.
“Francis. Then we have to trust what he says.”
“If anything happens to you, I’m responsible Alexis-”
“But you wouldn’t. So it’s okay.” My tone finalised it although I could tell he wasn’t happy he dropped it.
No one spoke.
“Well since all of that debacle is over. You all need to make yourself at home. My home, is now your home.”
Francis was a hospitable host and did the best that he could to make us comfortable, firstly he gave us brand new clothes and assured us our clothes would be washed and dried since he didn’t want us ruining his ornate carpet which I suspect was worth my whole house combined, secondly he made sure he gave us all the best rooms according to him and thirdly he granted us s personal man servant to tend to our needs which was slightly excessive, naturally we all rejected his offer. Since this was his home we weren’t in any position to complain, we still needed to be thankful of our lives because not all of us made it out with them.
“You okay?” Currently Isaiah perched on the front of my queen sized bed and given Francis spaced our rooms out so wide he was reluctant to leave me alone.
Again, it was better to tell the truth than lie to his face and this was impossible with Isaiah, he’d spot my lie a mile away. “No.” I shook my head. “No, I’m not. We just left him there.”
“We had no choice.”
“There’s always a choice. And we chose wrongly.”
“So what. You’d rather it be me there than him, because I had no problem taking his place.”
I stilled. “You know that’s not what I meant Isaiah. It’s just what you all do, how you can forget so easily. Doesn’t it lay wrong with you that your murder-” Quickly I stopped myself, the statement alone was highly insensitive. I guess I keep forgetting that they knew nothing else but complete the task at hand, no matter the cost. Surely, that can be damaging as a child to have that repeatedly trumped in your head.
“We’re what?” He stared me down, challenging me to finish my sentence. “No say it Alexis. What are we? What am I?”
“Murderers. You’re murderers.” If he wanted me so desperately to give him what he wanted, I would.
Slightly his eyes rolled an vexed expression on his face. “Of course we are Alexis! It’s what we’re trained to do. We’re not hitmen but we have been qualified to kill who we have to. It’s second nature, a primary instinct to us.. And without us ‘murderers’ you wouldn’t be here right now.”
I started feeling naive and short sighted of the whole situation. He was right, of course he was right. But killing was still wrong in spite of who it was, what if they had family, friends. What if they were grandfathers, grandmothers. Where will those mourners be left with. I knew what he was trying to explain to me and make sure I understood, but it still didn’t feel right.
We stared at each other, both unflinching waiting to see would who crack, this time I was determined to stand my ground. “It’s still not okay Isaiah and you know that.”
He shrugged, unmoved by everything I currently accused him of. “It’s not fun to kill Alexis. We don’t do it for the rush or the thrill. It’s either be killed or kill. Us or them-”
“What if it was me,” He raised a brow now drawn into the conversation, curious of what I was going to say. “What if I was the one that held a gun to your head. Would you kill me? Would you end my life Isaiah?”
His face contoured into a frown, his features strained and pulled like that was the most ludicrous idea I could possibly come up with. “It wouldn’t come to that. ” He shook his head. “It would never come to that, would it.” It may have been phrased as a question but it was obvious that it was a statement. A statement that allowed no leeway, a statement that was undeniably absolute.
Avoiding his intuitive gaze, I looked down, he wanted to know why I would even say to something like that. In all honesty I didn’t know. “No.” Everything in me was so tense, it was hard to relax, collecting myself, I took a deep breath, continuing. ” No, it wouldn’t. But you must understand where I’m coming from.”
He nodded. “I do, it must be hard swallowing all of this but it’s our job Alexis. We don’t have another choice-”
“That’s not true! Shoot to paralyse, shoot to injure. But never shoot to kill.”
“Alexis can we please not talk about this anymore.”
“Please for me, just drop it.” I did what he asked, it was evident that this very conversation was draining a lot more out of him, he was vulnerable to his emotions and I knew he didn’t like that. Normally he wouldn’t have to even think before he pulled the trigger but now anytime he’d attempt it they’d be a little voice at the back of his head telling him to shoot anywhere but to kill. Honestly now I wasn’t all to confident that worked in my favour.
“Isaiah, there was something Zee and Elijah,” Tensing up at his name instinctively I inched closer on the bed headway to Isaiah, despite everything I was craving his comfort and more importantly his touch. “There was something that they were keeping from me, involving about you and it only arose when I it fell on the topic of what happened at the bar.”
He stopped his actions of pulling me closer and looked dead-set in my eyes. He knew exactly what I was talking about and everything just gave that away. “I don’t think you should know-”
“Do you not trust me?”
“You know that’s far from it Alexis.” Heaving a deep breath, contemplating whether I needed to know this extra fact about him that clearly he wanted to keep hidden. Nevertheless he nodded. “Okay, since you really want to know. Well sometimes there’s just something in me that sparks, like it’s a big ball of fire laying dormant until it burns uncontrollably until the point I can’t contain it. From what I’ve been told, I’d inherited it from my dad, it’s documented he had the same outbursts, towards the end of his life, towards the overdose, apparently he’d have these episodes, to the point it almost turned him manic.” He paused, trying to gauge my reaction, trying to see if I would react badly but I trusted him and I cared for him too much to hurt him. “I don’t want to end up like him, his wasn’t so much of a mental illness than him wanting to joyfully inflict pain on others. And that’s not what I want, I don’t want to turn into him. I don’t want to turn into a monster.” With every single sentence he spoke his voice grew quieter and I could see this would be the closet I would get him to open up and let me inside his head, so I accepted it.
"“You’re not a monster and what happened at the bar was a one time incident. If you didn’t do what you did, it’s simple I would have been dead.” It was unsettling how quickly I changed my tune when it came to him.
He watched me, but didn’t reply.
“It was a one time incident, right?”
Again, no reply for what could have only been a mere few moments but felt stretched out like decades. “No, it wasn’t the only time. There’s been others, we I’ve been assigned onto a mission, successful I’d captured our target. But then I’d lose control, like a light switch snapped inside me. It was so bad that one of them had to be hospitalized in HQ.”
Silently, we sat. I was still trying to process everything he said and I could tell he regretted it because his hands twitched nervously snaking their way up to the back of his hair which he repeatedly ran his hands through.
“You can control it, you know you can.” I could tell he was grateful for me trying to calm him as much as I could but I knew that he also thought that I was faking it, giving him what he wanted to hear.” Isaiah, I’d bet anything and everything on you and I know that’s not you. You maybe be brash and straight to the point at times but I also know your caring side for those you care most about. Especially me, remember the first time we meet and me threatening to kill you. ” His eyes twinkled as he relived the moment, his lips gently twitch up into a smirk. Better. This was better than a visible frown. “And to think you were still so patient with me despite me repeatedly being such a burden on you-”
“Alexis, you were never a burden.”
Holding a hand up, I stopped him. ” Let me finish. What I’m trying to tell you is that you never lost your cool with me to the extent that I genuinely feared for my life. I think, no, I know that you can control it, suppress whatever urges you feel.”
“But don’t you see the only difference, I would never hurt you. Others unfortunately you can’t account for.”
“I think you’re missing the point Isaiah. What I’m trying to say is you’re a good person, the flaws within us, the flaws we can’t control we have to learn to accept it first and then overcome it and fight against it. You’re one of the strongest people I know, if anyone could achieve that it’s you Isaiah.”
This time he smiled, the very action lighting up his entire face and the whole spacious, adequately decorated room. He looked more natural this way and I wasn’t even sure if he could even comprehend his own beauty. “What did I do to deserve you?” Truthfully it was the other way round.
Three knocks on our door broke us from our in-depth conversation, this was the time he’d open up to me and as luck would have it I’d be interrupted. However the knocks we gentle, soft. It was Zee. A momentary silence swept through before she walked in, softly locking to door behind her, she turned to face us once again. Her gaze shifting between me and Isaiah for a while, hinting to our close, seemingly intimate position.
But neither of us pulled away. My body was constantly rejecting the idea, his warmth was compelling enough to stay.
“Guys, I don’t know about Francis.” Lightly tapping the tip of her boots onto the polished floor. “He seems too sketchy.”
I knew what she meant completely but I wanted to press forwards, restless to know if she discovered something that the rest of us didn’t. It wasn’t just me that thought Francis right now was too good to be true and quite justly I found myself increasingly on edge waiting for the military or my assailants to burst threw those doors and put a bullet in my head, or worst the others. “Do you know something we don’t?”
“No. ” She shook her head, sucking her teeth. “But him and Adrian seem a bit too close for comfort, like they’re more than friends or at least that’s what Francis wants.”
“So Adrian should lose his credibility?” Isaiah questioned Zee. I knew the thought of Zee not trusting Adrian was off-putting and creates rifts for everyone and that definitely should be avoided at all costs right now.
“No, that not what I said. Adrian, I trust. But Francis, guys, all I’m saying is keep on eye out. There’s something about him that rubs me the wrong way.”
Both of us nodded, heeding her warning without further complaint.
“And I’ve been asked to ‘summon’ you for him.”
“What for?” Isaiah interjected before I could ask the exact same question.
“He’s invited us to dine with him.”
Swirling vines draped the curtains of the enormously grand hall, lanterns scattered around dense with exotic blooming flowers despite the soft natural glowing light, Francis felt the need to add more. Sparks of flames curled industriously within and around them, illuminating the hall. I gazed out of the tall stained glass and caught sight of more towers looming over us, France itself sleeping away the day, the sparkling fountains and luminous stones.
And right in the middle, sat a large banquet table adorned with more gold and traces of silver that reflected off the various lights. Multiple servants dressed it sharps suits were situated at different areas of the table. And everything on top of that table could easily feed a small army. It was sickening how he wasted all this food knowing full well all of us would even be able to decimate a small portion of that meal, but I know countless others in desperate need of that abundance of food. It was a feast fit for kings. One major flaw, no of us were kings and no of us were celebrating. It still imprinted fresh in our heads that we’d lost our own, quite recently too. There was absolutely nothing to be joyful for.
“Welcome, I’m glad you can all make it.” Francis sat at the head of the table, standing up readily to greet us. Looking to my left, I saw Elijah, Zee and Adrian in that order in particular. I was grateful he was closet to me as I could feel his hands gaze against mine and it calmed whatever doubts I’d reserved for this. He was here, so there’s nothing I should worry about. “What are you all standing there for, viens!” It didn’t take Isaiah to translate that for me, as being the first one I broke away from him making my way towards Francis putting as much distance I could without appearing crude. “Ah, the first are always the best. Eat, there’s plenty to choose from.” And he wasn’t lying, half the items on the table I’m more than certain I couldn’t pronounce let alone know how to eat. The amount of cutlery placed in front of me by my glass plate was confusing to say the least.
But everyone followed my lead, Isaiah to the side of me. Zee and Adrian directly ahead of us.
“Then you can maybe explain to me what’s inside that head of yours that so special that has the ability to recover the natural order of our world.”
I froze. Why was he even asking these questions? Why was he so determined to know more about me? And why was that nagging feeling of mine making it’s debut again?